Do You Regret Your Holiday Shopping?

by Kevin on December 27, 2010

It’s the Monday after Christmas, how does it feel?

Do the piles of wrapping paper from just a few days ago still make you feel full of joy and happiness?

Or has the temporary enjoyment already worn off? And now you’re thinking about the cost of that extravagant Christmas morning. Sure, the kids or the spouse or the whole family were all super pleased with their gifts. But was the cost worth it?

Did you clean out the bank account? Are you living paycheck to paycheck but your family had an amazing (and expensive) Christmas? Did you add to your ever heavy debt load?

Why Forced Giving Sucks

The whole “well we have to give everyone something” thing at Christmas, in my opinion, sucks. If you’ve got a family gathering of 10 people that’s a lot of shallow gift giving!

Now before you jump all over me as Mr. Grinch once again, I’m fine with spending a little bit on the kids. Keeping the magic of Christmas alive and all that. (Note I said a little bit not equal to your monthly mortgage payment…).

But let’s be honest about all of the adults in the room. Assuming everyone is working they can most likely pay for whatever they want for Christmas. No need for Person A to buy $50 worth of stuff for Person B, only to have Person B turn around and spend $50 on stuff Person A wants. Buy your own stuff and skip the hassle of wrapping paper.

Additional Ways to Give

Instead of hopping on the Christmas gift carousel there are some other ways you can give at Christmas. Personally I think these gifts are even better than the new shiny electronic from your favorite big box retailer.

The best part is they shouldn’t add to your debt or ruin your financial month.

We Give Ourselves

My wife and I both moved pretty far distances from our immediate families when we went to college. I was over 4 hours away from home, she was about 6. When I graduated college I turned around and moved to her city which put both of us 6 hours from home.

That makes things like getting together on a weekend pretty difficult. For the past several years we usually see our families only 2 or 3 times per year.

So, during that time we made sure to take off the last two weeks of the year. With my wife being a teacher it was easy for her. I don’t have that luxury so I save up my vacation time and take it at the end of the year. We usually go home and spend at least 4 days straight with our families.

It’s a simple gift, being together, but one that I would bet both sets of parents would say is priceless.

We Give Our Time

Whenever we go home I inevitably end up playing tech support for my Dad. He’ll ask me to backup some files or look at this problem or that.

And that’s just fine. Yes, it can frustrate me at times, but I really should be glad to help. I’m sure I frustrated him a lot growing up, too!

The only cost to going home is gasoline and maintenance on the car, and perhaps some fast food to and from while driving. And those are costs we would incur if we went home with a car loaded with gifts, too, so we aren’t adding a significant amount to our budget for the month.

What about you? Did you go all out this year or have you decided to stop exchanging gifts? Leave a comment and share your story.


Lissa December 27, 2010 at 10:14 am

I totally agree with you. For the past few Christmases, we’ve just focused on giving gifts to the children in our family, mainly our son and our cousins’ kids. Most adults can get what they want like you said.

Kevin December 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Thanks for stopping by!

Brian Gagnon December 27, 2010 at 11:00 am

This year I felt that the number of people that I had to get presents for was high (‘forced giving’). As I’m working on staying within a budget I tried to be more creative with my gifts and made it, as it should be, more about the thought than the amount spent. I think that by staying in the mind set that it’s about the thought not the $$ can help in finding unique affordable gifts for everyone.

Kevin December 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm

It helps to have people that also subscribe to the “it’s the thought that counts” mantra.

Adam Kamerer December 27, 2010 at 12:03 pm

My family has a tradition that keeps us from blowing a bunch of funds on gifts. At Thanksgiving, we pass around a hat with everyone’s name in it, and you only have to buy a gift for the person whose name you drew. We usually set a price limit, too, anywhere from $10-20, so at Christmas, everyone gets a gift, but no one has to spend a lot of money to do it.

Time with family is more important than consumer goods, anyway.

Kevin December 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm

That’s a good idea. My wife and I were just talking about starting a “dirty Santa” or “white elephant” game, if you’re familiar. Spices things up and keeps the budget low, low, low.

Golfing Girl December 28, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I think Christmas is definitely about gathering for fellowship and a good meal, and presents really are for the kids. But I sent my obligated gifts via mail to my entire family, despite 10 years of suggesting that we stop exchanging gifts. We have the only children in the family so I feel a little bad that even if we limited it to the kids, we’d be on the receiving end.

But honestly, the presents that got the biggest enjoyment on Christmas morning at our house were the stocking stuffers I got at Dollar Tree like candy and beef jerky. The biggest hit was a headband with fake hair attached that we passed around and all wore for a picture or two (this was intended for my 7 year old daughter but we all enjoyed laughing at each other). I think I spent a total of $15 at the Dollar Tree.

The other gift that was “worth it” was the XBOX 360 game “Family Game Night” that provided hours of fun together playing Scrabble, Boggle, Battleship, etc.

I find it pretty annoying that some of my family members (who shall remain nameless) simply send a link of an item and tell me to buy it for them and ask that I do the same and send the link to them. Why not buy it for ourselves??

If I want something, I’ll buy it unless it’s too expensive, and I certainly don’t expect anyone else to get it for me if it’s that expensive.

I’ve also tried to buy things that cannot accumulate dust–such as food gifts or gift cards or experience gifts like tickets to an event.

The only other gifts I gave that I felt were not a waste were the gift cards to restaurants I gave to my daughter’s teachers and bus drivers, who are responsible for her safety and learning every day.

Kevin December 28, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Experience gifts are the best gifts.

Sucks you still have the “obligated to give” section. Might try suggesting Secret Santa or something like that.

JP December 28, 2010 at 8:18 pm

No regrets.

We had intended to have a homemade/second hand Christmas. It didn’t go as smoothly as we’d have liked due to some tech difficulties (like tools breaking down), but the idea remained.

About a month before Christmas, dh presented me with a budget (hear the angels singing? LOL) which was strict and necessary. We managed to get through the season within budget, and still had a nice time.

Kevin January 2, 2011 at 11:26 am

That’s what I’m talking about! Putting together a budget, sticking to it, and still having a great time. Win x3!

Money Smarts Blog January 2, 2011 at 11:25 am

Totally with you Kevin – we’ve pretty much eliminated the gift-giving between adults. Like you, we travel to meet up with relatives – getting together is enough.


Kevin January 2, 2011 at 11:27 am

It’s one of those things… when you’re growing up you don’t realize how difficult (and potentially expensive) just getting together as a family can be. I appreciate time sitting around the dinner table a lot more now than I used to.

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